History of Tahlequah's Chiefs of Police

George Myers

  • April 2, 1907 - June 30, 1908
  • Elected

George Myers was the last elected Chief of Police, or Marshal as they were called in the early days, before statehood. Myers, a Democrat, defeated his opponent, J. C. Choate, a Republican, by a vote of 230 to 148 on April 2, 1907. Before statehood, and until 1941, the elections were held by the party system. The primary election was held in March, and the general election in April. No run-off was provided.

J.T. Powell

  • July 1, 1908 - May 1911
  • Elected

J. T. Powell was the first Chief of Police elected after statehood. Powell, a Democrat, defeated E. P. Darris, a Republican, by a vote of 215 to 165. The first election was held on June 2, 1908, with the elected officials taking office on July 1. Powell was re-elected in 1909. All other municipal elections would be held in an odd-numbered years, and the term of office was two years. Powell would later be the first of two Chiefs who would be elected Sheriff of Cherokee county. Powell was sheriff from 1925 until 1927. The 1910 census gave the population of Tahlequah as 2,891.

R.L. "Lee" Wyly

  • 1911 - 1917
  • Elected

R. L. Wyly won the Democratic nomination in 1911 and defeated his opponent in the general election by a vote of 326 to 129. By statute, the primary election was held on March 21st, and the general election on April 4th. The police department was reduced to three members at the city council meeting of July 3, 1912. Working under Wyly were D.W. Perkins, J.J. Kuykendall, Ned Gritts, and J.A. McCarter.

Ned Gritts

  • May 18, 1917 - January 14, 1919
  • Appointed

Governor R.L. Williams signed a bill March 27, 1917, with an emergency clause attached, which made the offices of Chief of Police, Street Commissioner, and City Attorney appointive. This would later be repealed for the Chief of Police and Street Commissioner. Tahlequah Mayor R.H. Couch appointed Gritts with the city council’s approval. The salary for Chief of Police was $60 per month. The Mayor’s salary was $10 per month, and the City Clerk’s, $20. The budget for the police department for the fiscal year July 1, 1917 to June 30, 1918, was $2,010. Ned Gritts resigned January 14, 1919, to accept a job with the Tulsa police department.

D.W. Perkins

  • January 14, 1919 - September 5, 1938
  • Elected

D.W. Perkins was appointed to finish out the term of Ned Gritts after Gritts’ resignation. He was elected to office in the 1919 election, and easily won re-election until his death in December of 1938. Perkins began his law enforcement career under Chief J.T. Powell on September 3, 1909. Cleve Presley was hired and the department would be a two-man police force until Lee Ballinger was hired and appointed special night police on August 1, 1932. Frank Edwards was hired on January 7, 1922, following the resignation of Presley. While assisting the Sheriff’s Office, Edwards was attempting to capture some outlaws on the night of September 16, 1932, when he received a gun-shot wound which would prove to be fatal. He died in late October. Perkins was a very popular Chief, and as late as 1935, he led the ticket by defeating his opponent by a vote of 929 to 242. The census of 1920 reported the population of Tahlequah as 2,271, and the 1930 census reported 2,495.

S.P. "Sam" Knight

  • October 3, 1938 - March 5, 1945
  • Elected

Knight was promoted to Captain to finish out the term of D.W. Perkins following Perkin’s death. Knight was re-elected to two additional terms. Wayne Cunningham was approved as Assistant Chief, and stayed with Knight until Knight left office. Knight resigned on March 5, 1945, in favor of Cunningham. The census of 1940 reported a population of 3,027.

W.T. "Wayne" Cunningham

  • March 5, 1945 - December 31, 1948
  • Elected

Cunningham was appointed to finish out the term of S.P. Knight following Knight’s resignation. He was elected to two additional terms without opposition. One police officer was added to the force in 1947, which brought the department up to four officers. The pay in 1945 for Chief of Police was $130 per month, Assistant Chief, $120, and night officer, $100. Cunningham was elected Sheriff in 1948. He resigned as Chief of Police on December 31, 1948 to take the Sheriff position.

Fred Hudlin

  • December 31, 1948 - May 4, 1953
  • Elected

Hudlin was appointed to finish out the term of W.T. Cunningham after Cunningham’s resignation. The 1949 election was a nine-way race, with Hudlin getting 737 votes to his nearest opponent’s 420 votes. Hudlin won again in 1951 against a field of four candidates. The census for 1950 reported a population of 4,750.

Virgil Bynum

  • May 4, 1953 - May 17, 1954
  • Elected

Bynum was elected by a narrow margin from a field of four candidates. On December 7, 1953, the City Council took action against Bynum, suspending his authority as Chief, and suspending him from his duties. On January 4, 1954, the City Council reinstated Bynum’s authority and duties as Chief of Police. He resigned on May 17, 1954, in favor of Captain Lional Childress. Bynum had no previous law enforcement experience.

Lionel "Buck" Childress

  • May 17, 1954 - December 6, 1954
  • Appointed

Childress was appointed to fill the vacancy left by Virgil Bynum’s resignation. Childress resigned on December 6, 1954.

Fred Hudlin

  • December 6, 1954 - May 3, 1955
  • Appointed

Hudlin, previously Chief of Police from December 31, 1948 until May 4, 1953, was appointed to fill out the term of Lional Childress following Childress’s resignation.

Rance Blair

  • May 3, 1955 - May 1957
  • Elected

Blair was elected and took office on May 3, 1955. O.W. Cox was his Assistant Chief. Two additional officers were hired during Blair’s term, bringing the police force up to a total of six officers. In 1956, Northeastern State University also hired an officer to work out of the police department.

W.T. "Wayne" Cunningham

  • May 6, 1957 - May 1, 1961
  • Elected

Cunningham would hold the office for two terms. He was responsible for getting the police pension passed on September 9, 1959. Two more officers were added to the police force, bring the total number of officers to eight. The census for 1960 reported a population of 5,840.

Calvin "Cal" Kirk

  • May 1, 1961 - May 1967
  • Elected

Kirk had worked as an officer under Chief Bynum and Chief Blair. He was the Under-Sheriff for Owen Sanders from 1959 to March 1961.

W.E. "Gene" Bolding

  • May 1967 - May 1979
  • Elected

Boyd Hamby

  • May 1979 - May 1989
  • Elected

Norman Fisher

  • May 1989 - December 31, 2004
  • Elected

Fisher resigned December 31, 2004, to become Cherokee County Sheriff on January 1, 2005. The census for 1990 reported a population of 10,398 and the 2000 census reported a population of 14,458.

Walter "Steve" Young

  • December 31, 2004 - May 2, 2005
  • Appointed

Young was appointed to finish out the term of Norman Fisher, after Fisher’s resignation to become sheriff.

Stephen T. Farmer                                               

  • May 2, 2005 - May 5, 2009
  • Elected

Stephen Farmer was elected Chief of Police and sworn into office May 2, 2005. Chief Farmer began his law enforcement career in 1982, as a Dispatcher and Animal Control Officer with the Tahlequah Police Department. In 1986 he joined the United States Army Military Police Corp, serving 6 years on active duty and achieving the rank of sergeant. In 1992, he returned to the Tahlequah Police Department as a patrolman, and in 1994 was promoted to detective.

Stephen T. Farmer Headshot(JPG)

Chief Farmer introduced several programs to the Tahlequah Police Department:

  • Crime Tip Line- A telephone line designated for citizens to report suspicious activities or information concerning a crime while remaining anonymous. (May 2005)
  • Police Canine Division- Two police canines capable of tracking fleeing suspects or lost citizens, detecting narcotics, article search/location, and patrol training. (August 2005)
  • Reserve Officer Program- Enlisting C.L.EET. certified volunteer citizens to perform patrol duties and security at special events. (May 2006)
  • Officer Phoney Project- A patrol car with manikin placed in high traffic areas to prevent speeding, failures to stop, and other traffic violations. (May 2006)
  • Tahlequah’s Night Out- A neighborhood organized block party allowing neighbors to get acquainted and voice concerns for their neighborhoods. (August 2006)

Chief Farmer is an active member of the Tahlequah Community. Some of the memberships/committees he currently participates in are: Emergency Operations Planning, Homeland Security Command Team, Oklahoma Association of Chiefs of Police, International Association of Chiefs of Police, Tahlequah Chamber of Commerce, Tahlequah’s B.EST., Cherokee County Juvenile Drug Court, Hazardous Mitigation Team.

Chief Farmer has an open door policy. Please feel free to stop by or call his office at any time. Appointments are recommended, but not required. He welcomes suggestions on how the department can meet the needs of the citizens we serve.

Clay Mahaney                                  

  • May 2, 2009 - May 2013
  • Elected

Clay Mahaney took office as the City of Tahlequah’s new police chief in May, 2009 after serving 20 years as a patrolman for the City of Tahlequah.

Mahaney was a 1982 graduate of Tahlequah High School and started his law enforcement career with the Stilwell Police Department in 1986. Two years later he came to work for the citizens of Tahlequah.

Clay Mahaney Headshot(JPG)

Mahaney brought nearly 1,000 hours of Council of Law Enforcement Education and Training to the chief’s office. He previously served the department and the Tahlequah Public Schools as a D.A.R.E. officer and was honored with a Buckle Down Award in 2001 for his efforts in traffic safety.

The Chief pursued grants to help support Tahlequah Police Department programs such as 2 Much 2 Lose, the special operations team, reserve officers and the D.A.R.E. program. Shortly after his Oath of Office, the police department partnered with the District 27 Drug Task Force striving to work together with other area agencies for the betterment of the people of Tahlequah.

He implemented the departments first Chaplain Service with two Chaplain’s: Reverend Buddy Hunt and Pastor Edgar Lucero. All of the major violent crimes were solved during his tenure as Chief. He was able to supply the SWAT team with all new equipment and purchased 20 new vehicles with new logos for the department while staying within budget. 

Having worked with the City Council, Mahaney oversaw the Police Department moving to its current location on West Choctaw Street and, thanks to a tax that was passed by Tahlequah voters, was able to provide the Police Department the latest technology to better protect the community. 

He and is wife Autum are long time Tahlequah residents. Mahaney, a Cherokee tribal member, is the son of the late Clyde Mahaney and his mother is Katie Mahaney. He is also a member of Cherokee Masonic Lodge 10, Oklahoma Association of Chiefs of Police and the Cherokee County Cattlemen’s Association.

Nate King

  • May 2013 - Present 
  • Elected

Nate King took office as Chief of Police on May 6, 2013 after a decorated career in law enforcement, which started in January of 1999 as a dispatcher for the Tahlequah Police Department. His career at the Police Department included serving as a dispatcher, a Patrolman, a D.A.R.E. Officer, and a Detective. Nate was the Officer of the Year for the Tahlequah Police Department in in 2003, 2004 and 2005.

Nate King Headshot(JPG)

King followed mentor, Norman Fisher, to the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office in 2007 and served as Fisher’s Lead Investigator until receiving his Bachelor’s Degree in Management. King served as Director of Community Sentencing from 2009 until being elected as Chief of Police.

Chief King has implemented great advancements within the Tahlequah Police Department such as:

  • Mobile Data Terminals in patrol units
  • Spillman Technologies, a new reporting system
  • Eticket writers
  • Tasers
  • Department issued weapons
  • Stop Sticks
  • Body Cameras
  • Additional School Resource Officers, patrolmen and dispatchers
  • Created a Training and Development Coordinator
  • Bicycle Patrol
  • Home for the Holidays Initiative